A BALANCING ACT: HUMAN NEEDS AND
SUSTAINABLE RESOURCES

Countries are increasingly challenged to meet their citizens' growing material needs—fueled by rising populations and/or better living standards—and at the same time sustainably steward their natural resources. The 2016 World Population Data Sheet focuses on this balancing act. Some Data Sheet indicators measure people's ability to live healthy, productive lives; others measure resource management—and how mismanagement can harm human and planetary health. Together, these indicators give a broad snapshot of the state of the world's population, global health, and the environment

AIR POLLUTION,
PARTICULATE MATTER,
AND HUMAN HEALTH

Particulate matter (PM) in the air is composed of dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets. Fine PM (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers, known as PM2.5) can lodge deeply in the lungs and is hazardous to humans and to the environment. Numerous studies have linked PM2.5 to serious health problems including irregular heartbeat, asthma, heart attack, and premature death. Particulate matter can also pollute waterways and damage forests and crops.

CHOOSE YOUR STORY
UNITED STATES
GLOBAL
INCOME LEVELS

Annual Average Ambient Concentration of Fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) in Micrograms per Cubic Meter, Average Across U.S. Counties

Notes: Large Metro is defined as 1 million population or more. Mid to Small Metro is defined as a metropolitan area with less than 1 million population.

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Particulate Matter (PM) Basics,” accessed at www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/particulate-matter-pm-basics#PM, on August 3, 2016; PRB analysis of data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, Outdoor Air, Annual PM 2.5 Level based on Seasonal Averages and Daily Measurement (Monitor + Modeled),” accessed at www.cdc.gov/ephtracking, on May 18, 2016; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, “County Typology Codes,” accessed at www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/county-typology-codes.aspx, and “Rural-Urban Continuum Codes,” accessed at http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/rural-urban-continuum-codes.aspx on May 18, 2016; and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Fine Particle (PM2.5) Designations,” accessed at https://www3.epa.gov/pmdesignations/faq.htm, on June 7, 2016.

U.S. AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENTS LED BY METRO AREAS

Air quality in the United States has improved since passage of the Clean Air Act of 1963 and its major amendments in 1970, 1977, and 1990. Stricter emissions regulations have reduced PM2.5 pollution nationwide, but rates of improvement have been fastest in metropolitan areas and manufacturing-dependent counties, which have higher levels of particulate pollution from motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial activity. Although rates of improvement have been slower in rural, mining, and agricultural areas, PM2.5 pollution remains lower than in metropolitan areas or manufacturing-dependent counties. And while air quality has improved, U.S. public health experts believe there is no safe level of exposure to particulate matter.

MUNICIPAL WASTE
VOLUMES PER CAPITA
RISE WITH INCOME

Annual Municipal Waste per Capita

Sources: David C. Wilson, Ljiljana Rodic, Michael J. Cowing, Costas A. Velis et al., “‘Wasteaware’ Benchmark Indicators for Integrated Sustainable Waste Management in Cities,” Waste Management 35, no. 1 (2015): 329-43; United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), Global Waste Management Outlook, David C. Wilson, ed. (Vienna: ISWA International Secretariat, 2015).

PRB gratefully acknowledges David C. Wilson of Imperial College London, Costas Velis of the University of Leeds and Ljiljana Rodic, an independent consultant in the Netherlands, for providing access to the latest data derived from their application of the ‘Wasteaware’ benchmark indicators to 40 cities worldwide.

Proper municipal waste disposal is a public health and environmental priority as urban populations grow. City residents without regular refuse collection services risk exposure to contaminants that spread into soil, streets, and water. Uncontrolled dumpsites taint water tables and release airborne toxins as unsorted refuse is burned. Global municipal waste data show that per capita volumes tend to rise with average income levels but negative impacts lessen as wealthier cities improve waste processing systems. While some cities in lower-income countries have expanded collection coverage, many still lag in proper waste processing—or controlled disposal. Collection in Lahore, Pakistan covers 77 percent of the population but only 18 percent of collections go to a controlled disposal facility. Lusaka, Zambia has 63 percent coverage and a 45 percent rate of controlled disposal. Recycling rates reach relatively high levels in some lower-income countries, often due to informal recycling networks.

INCOME LEVELS

MORE PEOPLE HAVE
IMPROVED ACCESS TO
WATER AND SANITATION

Percent of Population With Improved Access to Sanitation and
Water, 1990 and 2014, Select Countries
TABLE
BAR CHART

Source: UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO), 25 Years: Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water, 2015 Update and MDG Assessment (Geneva: UNICEF and WHO, 2015).

Access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is fundamental to sustainable development and human health. Progress on water in the past 25 years has brought access to piped water close to home (the definition of improved access) to 91 percent of the world’s population, up from 76 percent in 1990. Of those remaining without improved access, nearly half are in sub-Saharan Africa. Sanitation status has been more varied, yet progress is clear. Whereas some countries, like Chile, already had good access that is now almost universal, other countries have made more progress on sanitation than water, such as Angola. Still, more than 2.4 billion people, mostly in eastern and southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to improved sanitation facilities. And urban-rural gaps are sharp: Eighty-two percent of urban dwellers, but only 51 percent of rural residents, use improved sanitation facilities. Most developed countries have nearly universal access to water and sanitation.

AQUACULTURE
MEETS FISH
DEMAND AS OCEAN
CATCHES DECLINE

Trend in Annual World Fish Supply by Source and Fish Consumption per Capita, 1970-2012

Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 2014 State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture: Opportunities and Challenges (Rome: FAO, 2014); and FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, “Online Query Panels,” accessed at www.fao.org/fishery/topic/16140/en, on July 1, 2016.

Seafood is an important protein source for about 3 billion people worldwide. Population growth, new ocean fishing technologies, and changes in ocean ecosystems have placed strains on wild fish stocks. Total ocean catches peaked in the late 1990s and the World Wildlife Fund estimates that the oceans contain half the number of fish they did in 1970. Declining catches also reflect national and global efforts to enforce sustainable catch limits. Strong growth in aquaculture has allowed per capita fish consumption to rise steadily, to a global average of 19 kilograms per person in 2012 from about 10 kilograms in the 1960s. In 2012, aquaculture was the source for about half (49 percent) of fish consumed by humans, up from 5 percent in 1962.

DATA UPDATES

There are currently no updates.

NOTES & SOURCES

NOTES

The Data Sheet lists all geopolitical entities with populations of 150,000 or more and all members of the UN. These include sovereign states, dependencies, overseas departments, and some territories whose status or boundaries may be undetermined or in dispute. More developed regions, following the UN classification, comprise all of Europe and North America, plus Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. All other regions and countries are classified as less developed. The least developed countries consist of 48 countries with especially low incomes, high economic vulnerability, and poor human development indicators; 34 of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, 13 in Asia, and one in the Caribbean. The criteria and list of countries, as defined by the UN, can be found at http://unohrlls.org/about-ldcs/.

Sub-Saharan Africa: All countries of Africa except the northern African countries of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara.

World and Regional Totals: Regional population totals are independently rounded and include small countries or areas not shown. Regional and world rates and percentages are weighted averages of countries for which data are available. Regional averages are shown when data or estimates are available for at least three-quarters of the region’s population.

World Population Data Sheets from different years should not be used as a time series. Fluctuations in values from year to year often reflect revisions based on new data or estimates rather than actual changes in levels. Additional information on likely trends and consistent time series can be obtained from PRB, and are also available from UN and U.S. Census Bureau publications and websites.

Country-specific notes include:

  • The status of Western Sahara is disputed by Morocco.
  • SAR stands for Special Administrative Region.
  • Neither the population of Russia nor the population of Ukraine includes the population of Crimea, estimated at 2.3 million. The population is included in the regional total for Eastern Europe.
  • Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008. Serbia has not recognized Kosovo’s independence.
  • Macedonia is part of the former Yugoslav Republic.
  • (—) Indicates data unavailable or inapplicable.

    A date range indicates the most recent data point during that time period.

    SOURCES

    The rates and figures are primarily compiled from the following sources: official country statistical yearbooks, bulletins, and websites; the UN Demographic Yearbook, 2014; and Population and Vital Statistics Report of the UN Statistics Division; World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision of the UN Population Division; and the International Data Base of the International Programs Center, U.S. Census Bureau. Other sources include recent demographic surveys such as the Demographic and Health Surveys, Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, Performance and Monitoring Accountability (PMA) 2020 Surveys,, special studies, and direct communication with demographers and statistical bureaus in the United States and abroad. Specific data sources may be obtained by contacting the authors of the 2016 World Population Data Sheet. For countries with complete registration of births and deaths, rates are those most recently reported. For more developed countries, nearly all vital rates refer to 2015 or 2014.

    Source information for specific indicators is available in the Data module when an indicator is selected in the dropdown menus.

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    This publication is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (PACE Project, No. AID-0AA-A-16-00002), and supporters. The contents are the responsibility of the Population Reference Bureau and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.

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